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How climate change will impact England's vineyards

Published:  24 February, 2022

In the wine world, we can see the consequences of global warming very clearly – from overly ripe grapes to destroyed harvests – vineyards all over the world are experiencing disruption.

As grapes are sensitive crops, vineyards need a delicate balance of the right climatic conditions to produce quality wine. Small changes in temperature, moisture and soils can affect a whole year’s harvest. 

Over the past decade, warmer conditions have paved the way for traditionally colder regions of Europe to produce more wine.

According to Honest Grapes’ research, colder regions such as Finland and north Germany will soon become new contenders in the fine wine industry. 

Meanwhile, England is well-positioned to reap the short term benefits of climate change. Warmer, drier summers have already opened new doors for the winemaking industry in southern England, where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are grown in increasing quantities. 

As these grape varieties become more challenging to grow in other countries, we may enter a new era for English sparkling wine, suggests the research.  

Pinot Noir is grown across the world, primarily in cooler sites and, with a shift in climate, the grape's predilection for quite narrow climate parameters now increasingly makes England ideal for its production. From 2040 onwards, suggest the findings, we can expect the grape to thrive in England.

In addition, Chardonnay vineyards in the United Kingdom will be some of the least affected throughout the 21st century. Courtesy of warmer temperatures, England will grow European grapes with relative ease. 

Dr Greg Dunn, curriculum manager of Plumpton Wine Division said: "It is true that global warming does open up many exciting opportunities for what we can grow in the UK and what wines we can make. We are now at the stage where we can make excellent sparkling wine and are beginning to explore making very good still white wines and very good still red wines. 

He added: “Whilst it is important for us as an industry to take advantage of the opportunities that climate change is presenting, we also need to be aware that climate change is, on balance, one of the biggest challenges affecting populations and natural ecosystems. 

“For instance, the increase in temperature and the likelihood of more summer storms will mean that soils are more vulnerable to degradation and erosion. Taken together, all of these things suggest that the continued high level education and training of professionals in wineries, wine businesses and vineyards is doubly important for the UK."

There will also be knock-on effects in traditional Southern-European winemaking countries, where warmer winters, unpredictable rainfall patterns, and sudden frosts will become a feature in the years to come.

Regions like France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal are already struggling with spring frosts, water deficits, and overripe grapes. As a result, more wine producers are experimenting with grape varieties, harvesting times, or migrating to new regions.